Tri-State spellers knocked out of bee


o Jessica has been talking about her experiences at the spelling bee on her Twitter feed. Follow her updates here.

o For up-to-the-minute results of the spelling bee and more information about the competitors, go to

WASHINGTON -- It's likely Jessica Swarner can spell the word "superstitious."

On Wednesday, as she competed for the top spelling prize in the nation, Jessica kept a rosary, a horseshoe-shaped pin and a bag full of trinkets near her. The Hagerstown resident wore the same jewelry she was wearing when she won the Washington County Spelling Bee -- a green heart necklace and a bracelet her sister had given her for Christmas.

All have value to her and acted as good luck charms for her, said Jessica, a St. Mary Catholic School eighth-grader. And they served her well Wednesday as she successfully spelled a word in the first oral round of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.


However, Jessica, who was competing in the bee for the first time, was not one of the 41 students out of 293 to advance to Thursday's finals.

Another Tri-State-area student, Katie Bohrer, 12, of Bunker Hill, W.Va., also competed in the national spelling bee, but did not advance to Thursday's finals. Katie is a student at Musselman Middle School.

Both girls took a written test for Tuesday's first round, which was worth a maximum of 25 points. Each speller also got three points for words spelled correctly in Wednesday's two oral rounds. Students advanced to the final day of competition based on their combined scores from the first two days.

The Herald-Mail sponsored Jessica in the competition. She attended with her father, Mike Swarner.

Round 2

Jessica won spelling bees at her school and at the county level to advance to this week's national bee.

In Round 2, which was the first oral round of the competition, Jessica correctly spelled "committal." She said she gets a bit "mixed up" with words with double letters.

"But I figured it was like commit and then the two 't's," she said.

Jessica said she was relieved when she spelled her first word correctly.

"I was getting pretty nervous," she said following the round.

Jessica has watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee before on television, but said being on stage, with lights and cameras on her, was a completely different experience.

She said she was not prepared for it, even after an assembly Tuesday night in the room where Wednesday's rounds took place.

Katie, who also was competing in the bee for the first time, attended the competition in 2003 to watch a local student. Sitting in the audience is very different, she said.

"When you're there, you are watching (other spellers)," Katie said. "You think, will I get an easy word or a hard word? What kind of word will I get? I hope I don't get that word."

Katie beat spellers from Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties to advance to this week's national spelling bee.

She correctly spelled the word "napoleon," which is a type of pastry, in Round 2.

She said she immediately knew how to spell the word.

"I've seen it, heard it, read it, know it," Katie said.

Katie was at the spelling bee with her mother, Kelly Bohrer, and her grandmother, aunt and uncle.

Round 3

This was the first year all 293 spellers were allowed to advance to Round 3, which was the second oral round of the spelling bee.

Jessica said she didn't plan to rest between rounds of competition. She left the stage to go back to her room and log her progress on Twitter before continuing to study for Round 3.

Katie said she prepared for this week's spelling bee by studying once each week after school with a teacher, and also studying on her own.

Round 3 of the spelling bee was more difficult, and 211 out of 293 students spelled their words correctly. In Round 2, 265 students answered correctly.

Jessica and Katie both spelled their words incorrectly.

Jessica left out an "n" in the word "panmnesia," which means "total recall," in Round 3.

She spelled it "pamnesia," saying she believed the word was similar to "amnesia."

Katie's word was "stolon." She spelled it "stollen."

Following Round 3, Jessica said she was certain her written test score would not be enough to make up the three bonus points she lost by spelling the word incorrectly.

Jessica started with the goal of making it to the semifinal round at least, and said she was disappointed when she realized she wouldn't move past Round 3.

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